Friday, July 23, 2010

Chef's Tasting

I finally managed to get some photos from last night's Chef's Table menu. It's often too busy to photo the food.

Leek and Potato Shooter. A shooter of classic Vichyssoise topped with an oca latke and micro onion greens. Oca is a rare Andean tuber that strikes me as a cross between a fingerling potato and a sunchoke/Jerusalem artichoke. Oca is an Oxalis (O. tuberosa), so it brings a little of that classic sweet-tart oxalic acid flavor to the party. The micro onion greens are from Chef's Garden and are not onions at all. What they are, I don't really know, but they have a small tomato-like leaf and a great onion flavor. The idea behind this dish is that you eat the latke in a single bite and chase it with the soup.

Cantaloupe Carpaccio. Mandoline-cut local cantaloupe topped with cubes of cantaloupe marinated in lime zest and agave nectar, Thai basil oil, micro Thai basil, purslane, and red ribbon (aka blood) sorrel. I'm so glad that cantaloupes are just starting to ripen here. Notice the generous grind of pepper on the dish; cantaloupe loves pepper: it brings out the sweetness in the melon. Wine pairing: Broadbent Vinho Verde NV.

Tomato. We should have tomatoes coming out of our ears by now what with all this scorching weather, but nobody can seem to get tomatoes to ripen this year. We have been hoarding and ripening a very few tomatoes just for this tasting. Here you see tomato ricotta gnocchi in a pool of pesto garnished with micro opal basil, a small tomato stuffed with yellow tomato granita, and a tomato taco suave. The tortilla is masa and tomato, the filling is tomato dice tossed in pesto, and the garnishes are sun-dried tomato sour cream and micro basil. I was very pleased with the amount of flavor we managed to pull from the yellow tomato granita, which we served with a grind of sea salt on top. Wine pairing: Château de Ségriès Tavel Rosé 2009.

Lamb Makisushi. This dish is the answer to the question, "How do we serve lamb like sushi?" You see a maki roll of grilled summer squash, Israeli couscous, and braised lamb shank. The green garnish is leek leaves. The wasabi is colored mashed potatoes, the gari (pickled ginger) is pickled zucchini, and the soy sauce is the lamb braising liquid. High cuisine? I don't know. Fun? Most definitely. Wine pairing: Fabbioli Cabernet Franc Virginia 2008.

Napoleon of Pulled Pork. This dish represents summer to us. We were looking for a way to showcase corn, squash, and tomatoes in the same dish. You see a napoleon whose layers are, from the bottom to the top, sinfully unctuous squash cake, pulled pork, pimentón- and cornmeal-crusted green tomato, pulled pork, and fresh corn cake. The pork is shoulder that we have braised in the Cuban style: classic puerco con mojo. Garnishes are micro cilantro, sweet corn sauce, charred corn, red and orange pepper confetti, and chipotle adobo. Wine pairing: Fabbioli Chambourcin Virginia 2008.

Blueberry Cheesecake. I'm starting to move away from the slice of dessert on a plate school and moving more to deconstructed desserts. Here you see bite-sized blueberry cheesecakes, fresh blueberries, blueberry sauce, crème anglaise, graham cracker crust, and micro lemon balm. I'm very happy with this dessert. Wine pairing: Di Lenardo Verduzzo Passito Venezia Giulia 2003.


  1. You are a Food Genius!!!!!!

  2. I'm curious, Chef Ed, to hear about some of the creations you completed and then said to yourself, "Uh, no. That's pushing the envelope a bit too far." Has that ever happened?

  3. I just bit into my Mac monitor...

  4. @Chris, I don't think I've ever pushed the envelope too far. At least I don't think I'm one of those chefs. I tend to work with flavor metaphors that are well defined in one or another of the world's cuisines, already tested for generations, if you will.

    On the other hand, there have been plenty of technical flops that caused me to go to plan B. In this tasting for example, I was trying to do a tomato tuile for the tomato taco, using tomato powder in a classic tuile batter, but I could never get enough gluten to hold the tuile together. I'm sure I could have worked it out, but without the luxury of time to do so, I just made a classic corn tortilla flavored with tomato.

    From time to time, I do push customers' boundaries, however. For a wine dinner I once stuffed squid tubes with a chorizo stuffing and then braised the lot in red wine, a classic tapa. We're all nuts for squid here at the restaurant, but we forgot that we live in a very, very conservative area and most people have not eaten squid before, nor will they try it.

  5. Thanks for the very thorough answer. We're fortunate that our local Wegman's now carries squid as one of its stock fresh items. I'm looking forward to doing some experimenting with it.

    It's a little more common in this area (Northern Va.,) with the sizable international population. While I wouldn't call calamari standard pub fare, I had a very good plate of it at a local Irish pub about a year ago.

  6. Chef,
    Wow! Really fascinating dishes- and beautiful to boot. I believe the garnish on the leek and potato shooter is a microgreen called Chinese toon (Toona sinensis), which we've grown. According to Richter's Herbs ( in Canada, who carries the seed, it's a tree and a source of a valuable hardwood similar to mahogany. But seedlings are a popular aromatic vegetable in China- and now, in Winchester, VA! Where did you source the oca? Love what you do with obscure ingredients- we need to come for dinner sometime!

  7. Deirdre,

    Very cool. Looking at photos of the Chinese Toon on line, I believe you are correct. The oca is being grown commercially in very small quantities in New Zealand and I was able to get some for a small ransom to my specialty produce buyer at my produce company.

    How are you and Phil? Long time, no visit! I keep intending to come visit with you, but I never get to leave Funchester.

  8. Chef,

    All is well here, just hot and dry like everywhere else but the herbs don't mind. Let us know when you can get away, we'd love to have you visit!

  9. Thank you: I love the puled pork/fried tomato Napoleon idea. Terrific! Do you serve it hot or room temperature?

  10. Sylvie,

    Ça va? Ça fait bien longtemps, non? Chaud, bien sûr! The napoleon is served hot with the squash cake, the fried green tomato, and the corn cake just out of the pan.